After I pitched “boiler room tours” as path to energy literacy, @solaronenyc took me on one at NYC HS of Energy & Technology. More soon, including video, on Dot Earth!

After I pitched “boiler room tours” as path to energy literacy,  took me on one at NYC HS of Energy & Technology. More soon, including video, on Dot Earth!

Feelings, Facts, Food & GMOs – A Fresh Look  Weds, Feb. 26, 2014 12:00-2:00pm

The role of genetic engineering in agriculture is particularly contentious, with assertions about huge promise or perils often obscuring science. This panel discussion will aim to inform rather than inflame by bringing together a chef focused on conscious cuisine, a food journalist who spent six months investigating claims and counterclaims about GMOs, a law professor and a plant geneticist. The discussion will be moderated by Pace Academy Senior Fellow Andrew Revkin, who has explored the future of food repeatedly on his New York Times blog, Dot Earth.

The discussion will review the science on health and environmental questions, the legal issues related to food labeling and the realities of feeding not just a growing global population, but also one that is becoming more prosperous. 

Can GMOs be a part of our vision for a sustainable, equitable, and healthy world?

Free and open to the public.  Details online at www.pace.edu/foodyou.

In Person:  Pace University, 861, Bedford Road, Butcher Suite, Kessel Student Center, Pleasantville

Online:  Join us on Google+ or watch live or archive on YouTube.

Moderator:

Andrew Revkin - Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding, Pace University Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, Dot Earth Blogger, The New York Times

Panelists:        

Shelley Boris - Executive Chef, Fresh Company, and author of “Fresh Cooking: A Year of Recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen”

Jason Czarnezki - Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law, Pace Law School

Nathanael Johnson - Food and Environment Reporter, Grist.org

Pamela Ronald - Director, Laboratory for Crop Genetics Innovation at the University of California, Davis, and co-author of “Tomorrow’sTable: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food”

Can’t wait to track onstage @greenbiz meetup of @Greenpeace & @AsianPulpPaper. (@DotEarth background on pulp fight.) Here’s what’s coming, via Joel @Makower:

The next GreenBiz Forum will examine ”how NGOs and companies interact, in a number of sessions. At the event, we’ll be launching the ‘GreenBiz NGO Report,’ the first annual rating by companies of environmental nonprofits. It will assess which ones are the most credible and the most effective, from the viewpoint of several hundred companies we’ve surveyed.

"We’ll bring that report to life with a panel featuring senior leaders at three NGOs spanning the spectrum of activism, from collaborative (Environmental Defense Fund) to confrontational (Greenpeace). There will also be a mainstage conversation among Asia Pulp & Paper, Greenpeace, and The Forest Trust, which culminated an adversarial campaign one year ago with a breakthrough agreement. (Learn more in this week’s Exit Interview with outgoing Greenpeace USA executive director Phil Radford.)

"There’s more: Neil Hawkins from Dow will discuss it’s partnership with The Nature Conservancy; separately, TNC’s head, Mark Tercek, will talk about its work with Dow and other companies on biodiversity and business opportunity. And a number of other sessions will feature NGO-company partnerships.

"Clearly, these relationships are going to be around for a while, so we might as well get good at them."

Revisiting @stevedavisUCI @kencaldeira CO2 outsourcing study via @andrereichel. ~11% US consumption-related emissions occur outside US borders; 33-50% for European countries.

@conservationorg map of marine hot zones where human pressure & biodiversity clash (orange). The paper.

@conservationorg map of marine hot zones where human pressure & biodiversity clash (orange). The paper.

Is “overshoot” view of humanity’s global ecological footprint overblown? @theBTI & @EndOvershoot @PLOSbiology debate: 
Paper 1: “Does the Shoe Fit? Real versus Imagined Ecological Footprints”
Linus Blomqvist, Barry W. Brook, Erle C. Ellis, Peter M. Kareiva, Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger
Rebuttal: “The Shoe Fits, but the Footprint is Larger than Earth”
William E. Rees, Mathis Wackernagel
Despite Blomqvist et al.’s reservations, Footprint results show that: (1) most countries are in ecological deficit, increasingly dependent on potentially unreliable trade in biocapacity; (2) humanity is at or beyond global carrying capacity for key categories of consumption, particularly agriculture (factoring in soil loss and ecosystem degradation would reveal additional deficits); (3) global carbon waste sinks are overflowing; and (4) the aggregate metabolism of the human economy exceeds the regenerative capacity of the ecosphere (and the ratio is increasing). Significantly, Blomqvist et al. indirectly suggest several globally relevant policies to improve Footprint accounts and to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. How, in this light, the authors of the Perspective can conclude that the results of Footprint estimates are “…so misleading as to preclude their use in any serious science or policy context” remains unclear. What could we possibly gain by ignoring Footprint assessments in national and global policy-making?
Response: “The Ecological Footprint Remains a Misleading Metric of Global Sustainability”
 The Formal Comment by Rees and Wackernagel [1] raises our concern that this exchange will confuse readers. For this reason, we aim to emphasize a few key points that we believe cannot be disputed. First, the entire global ecological overshoot (footprint of consumption in excess of biocapacity) results from carbon dioxide emissions reframed as the hypothetical forest area needed to offset these emissions. Plantations of fast-growing trees would, by-the-numbers, eliminate the global overshoot. Second, the ecological footprint’s (EF) assessments for cropland, grazing land, and built-up land are unable to capture degradation or unsustainable use of any kind. Finally, we conclude from the above and the points made in our original paper [2] that we would be better off discussing greenhouse gas emissions directly in terms of tons of CO-equivalent (and thus focus on solutions to emissions), and developing a more ecological and ecosystem process framework to capture the impacts humans currently have on the planet’s natural systems. The appropriate scale for these indicators will, in many cases, be local and regional. At this level, the EF is a measure of net exports or imports of biomass and carbon-absorptive capacity [3]. Any city, for example, would show a deficit, as it relies on food and materials from outside. That in itself, as Robert Costanza has noted, “tells us little if anything about the sustainability of this input [from outside the region] over time” [4].

Is “overshoot” view of humanity’s global ecological footprint overblown? @theBTI & @EndOvershoot @PLOSbiology debate: 

Paper 1: “Does the Shoe Fit? Real versus Imagined Ecological Footprints

Linus Blomqvist, Barry W. Brook, Erle C. Ellis, Peter M. Kareiva, Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger

Rebuttal: “The Shoe Fits, but the Footprint is Larger than Earth

William E. Rees, Mathis Wackernagel

Despite Blomqvist et al.’s reservations, Footprint results show that: (1) most countries are in ecological deficit, increasingly dependent on potentially unreliable trade in biocapacity; (2) humanity is at or beyond global carrying capacity for key categories of consumption, particularly agriculture (factoring in soil loss and ecosystem degradation would reveal additional deficits); (3) global carbon waste sinks are overflowing; and (4) the aggregate metabolism of the human economy exceeds the regenerative capacity of the ecosphere (and the ratio is increasing). Significantly, Blomqvist et al. indirectly suggest several globally relevant policies to improve Footprint accounts and to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. How, in this light, the authors of the Perspective can conclude that the results of Footprint estimates are “…so misleading as to preclude their use in any serious science or policy context” remains unclear. What could we possibly gain by ignoring Footprint assessments in national and global policy-making?

Response: “The Ecological Footprint Remains a Misleading Metric of Global Sustainability

 The Formal Comment by Rees and Wackernagel [1] raises our concern that this exchange will confuse readers. For this reason, we aim to emphasize a few key points that we believe cannot be disputed. First, the entire global ecological overshoot (footprint of consumption in excess of biocapacity) results from carbon dioxide emissions reframed as the hypothetical forest area needed to offset these emissions. Plantations of fast-growing trees would, by-the-numbers, eliminate the global overshoot. Second, the ecological footprint’s (EF) assessments for cropland, grazing land, and built-up land are unable to capture degradation or unsustainable use of any kind. Finally, we conclude from the above and the points made in our original paper [2] that we would be better off discussing greenhouse gas emissions directly in terms of tons of CO-equivalent (and thus focus on solutions to emissions), and developing a more ecological and ecosystem process framework to capture the impacts humans currently have on the planet’s natural systems. The appropriate scale for these indicators will, in many cases, be local and regional. At this level, the EF is a measure of net exports or imports of biomass and carbon-absorptive capacity [3]. Any city, for example, would show a deficit, as it relies on food and materials from outside. That in itself, as Robert Costanza has noted, “tells us little if anything about the sustainability of this input [from outside the region] over time” [4].

A useful @NASciences report on need for US National Sustainability Policy with “steps to encourage federal agencies to collaborate on sustainability challenges that demand the expertise of many agencies, such as improving disaster resilience and managing ecosystems.”

A new report from the National Research Council. MORE: 

 

Currently, the government is generally not organized to deal with the complex, long-term nature of sustainability challenges, the report says.  Statutes and government culture encourage agencies to focus on a single area — energy, water, or health, for example — with little attention to how areas affect one another.  This “stovepipe” or “silo” effect makes it difficult to address issues that cut across agency boundaries.  

 

The federal government should take steps to help build linkages among agencies and stakeholders outside government to address these challenges, the report says.  A National Sustainability Policy, developed with input from agencies, NGOs, and the private sector, could help surmount obstructions and enable initiatives that cut across agency jurisdictions.  The policy would establish the principles of promoting the long-term sustainability of the nation’s economy, natural resources, and social well-being.  It should set out broad general objectives, management principles, and a framework for addressing complex issues.  Several models exist for such a policy, including the National Oceans Policy, which was created in 2010 through an executive order to guide management decisions with the goal of protecting the nation’s coasts.  Once a National Sustainability Policy is in place, agencies should develop specific plans that define how they expect to implement it.

 

The report offers a decision-making framework that can be applied to sustainability-related projects and programs.  The framework can help agencies identify and enlist other agencies and private stakeholders that should be involved.  Given the inherent complexities and uncertainties of many sustainability issues, strategies may need to be altered based on emerging results; the framework builds in an “adaptive management” approach that allows for these adjustments.

 

Although the framework can be applied to many sustainability challenges, the committee that wrote the report identified four challenges of national importance that should be top priorities: 

 

§  Connections among energy, food and water. Producing and using energy often consumes water and can also impact water quality, air quality, land use, and the agricultural sector.  For example, intensive production of corn for ethanol requires water for irrigation, and chemical fertilizers that are heavily applied to corn run off into rivers and become a major source of pollution.

§  Diverse and healthy ecosystems. Ecosystems, which are affected by the actions of many agencies, provide services to human communities — such as water supplies, coastal storm buffers, productive fisheries, and pollination of food crops.

§  Resilience of communities to natural disasters and other extreme events.Improving the sustainability of communities means identifying their vulnerabilities and enhancing their resilience to catastrophic events — such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks — as well as to more gradual processes, such as climate change.

§  Human health and well-being. Sustainability efforts may affect human health and well-being in complex, crosscutting ways.  For example, agricultural practices affect the nutritional content and contaminant levels in food, as well as food’s availability and price, and land use and transportation decisions affect levels of physical activity, which in turn affect the risk for cardiovascular disease, many cancers, and other conditions.

 

The report also recommends that the federal government offer incentives to its employees to collaborate across agency boundaries.  Agencies should nurture “change agents” both in the field and at regional and national offices, an effort that may include revisions to managers’ performance plans, rewards, and training.  Similarly, agencies should encourage and enable cross-agency management and funding of linked sustainability activities; in some cases, changes in statutory authority may be needed to do so.

 

Because sustainability challenges play out over long time scales, agencies should invest in long-term research projects to provide the scientific understanding needed to inform strategies, the report says.  Agencies should collaborate to design and implement cross-agency research portfolios in order to better leverage funding.

 

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, BP, Lockheed Martin, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.  A committee roster follows.

 

Report Summary

Project Website

Water pollution is illegal? Cage-free hens are content? Says who? Compared to what? Meet @earth_desk.

Water pollution is illegalCage-free hens are content? Says who? Compared to what? Meet @earth_desk.

Would human progress be more sustainable and just if business schools taught the full Adam Smith? #HwN Read this passage from Moral Sentiments:

The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society. He is at all times willing, too, that the interest of this order or society should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the state or sovereignty, of which it is only a subordinate part. He should, therefore, be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the universe, to the interest of that great society of all sensible and intelligent beings, of which God himself is the immediate administrator and director.

On my stack: Still Digging: Extractive Industries, Resource Curses, Transnational Governance in Anthropocene